Tag Archives: Scammed in Istanbul

That Time I Got Scammed (?) in Istanbul

I don’t know if i technically got scammed.  But here is my story.

On my last full day, I had planned to get up at the crack of dawn and be walking into the Blue Mosque the second it opened.   The night before, I had a horrible night’s sleep.  I was woken up in the middle of the night by a text that kept me up for the rest of the night.

I still manage to get up and out.  I get to the Mosque and I am an hour early because I do not know how to correctly research opening hours.

It is really hot. I am really sun burned. I am so tired.

I sit down on a bench outside the Mosque to rest and collect my thoughts.

A man comes up to me and offers to shine my shoes.  I say “NO”  I am not even wearing shoes, I am wearing cheapo sneakers that are getting thrown out as soon as I get home.   Despite me saying “NO”, he then says “just let me brush off the dirt”.   Now I get mad.  He is already down and brushing the dirt off my sneakers.  All I want to do is sit here in silence and rest and go into my own little world where I figure out the things in my personal life that are now running rampant through my head.

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I tell him “I am not paying you anything”, he says fine.  I know this is not going to be fine.   He starts asking me a bunch of questions.  Where am I from, do I like Turkish rugs.  No.  I don’t.   He is now fully cleaning my sneakers.

Once he is done, he asks me to go to his cousin’s rug shop.  I don’t want to go.   I know how this works.  He gives me a free shoe shine, takes me to a rug place, I buy a rug and we are even.  Except I told him to not shine my shoes several times.  I am not going to buy a rug EVER.  I am so tired and frustrated.  This man is ruining my trip right now.

Yet somehow, I am the one who feels bad.  So I take the walk with him, thinking I will tip him like 5 Turkish Lira for his troubles.  We get to the store.  I tell his cousin “I am not buying anything”  and I go to leave.  I pull out my wallet to give the shoe shiner a $5 bill and he tells me I owe him 60 Turkish Lira, which is about $30 USD.  Oh no I most certainly do not.   Are you insane?

I start yelling at him that I do not even have that much on me.  I really don’t.  He says “That is impossible” OH REALLY?  I am so great at budgeting.  I always have exactly what I need on me.  This is my last day.  I have enough to enter the Underground Cistern and eat for the day.   I already have my Jetons to get to the airport.   I don’t know why I am explaining this to him, but here I am.   Then I get even madder and yell “WHY AM I EXPLAINING THIS TO YOU?”  Then I just really start going off on him. Screaming at him.  “I TOLD YOU TO NOT TOUCH MY SHOES, I TOLD YOU I DID NOT WANT A SHOE SHINE.  YOU FORCED YOURSELF ON ME.  YOU RUINED MY MORNING, YOU ARE RUINING MY VACATION” and yet for some reason, I am still trying to give him $5.  But because I am finger pointing while yelling, the money slips out of my hand and falls into the street.   I did not plan that but since it’s there, it appears I have thrown they money at him.  This pleases me and I now walk away.  He does not follow.

I have no idea if this counts as a scam.  I didn’t end up scammed I don’t think, but I definitely went too far with being polite to him.  If I could do it all over again, I would have stood up and walked away the second he bent down to brush the dirt off my shoes.

Istanbul is really rough for people who just want to be left alone.   You can’t walk more than a foot without someone yelling “HEY LADY” at you, and shoving a flier for an open bus tour in your face, or trying to get you to buy a rug.  I found it really exhausting.  I felt like I was being harassed constantly.   Maybe it is just me who reacts to it so badly.  But I truly hated the endless disruptions to my thoughts.